Melnyk Racing Stable’s Indian Vale, who endured several false starts to begin her 5-year-old year, finally got back to the races Saturday afternoon and delivered a 5 1/2-length victory in the $104,800 Next Move Handicap (gr. III) for fillies and mares at nine furlongs on the Aqueduct inner track.
The prohibitive 1-2 favorite in a field of five, Indian Vale had last raced on May 2 when she finished last in the Shuvee Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park. She was given plenty of time off by trainer Todd Pletcher to recover from an ankle injury she suffered in that race. Attempts to bring her back were stalled by bad timing and sometimes bad weather.
Saturday, it all broke Indian Vale’s way, from the seasonably pleasant day to the scratch of her main rival, Rahys' Appeal. Trainer Tom Bush opted to scratch Rahys' Appeal in favor of the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park next Saturday. Rahys' Appeal worked five furlongs Saturday morning on Belmont Park’s fast training track in a bullet :59 2/5 and will ship to Oaklawn on Thursday.
Indian Vale, with Mike Luzzi aboard, had the rail to her advantage and four rivals at her mercy.
A True Pussycat broke on top, but Indian Vale quickly took the lead. Luzzi, making his first start on Indian Vale, took it easy on the 5-year-old A.P. Indy mare who covered the fast track in splits of :23.99, :48.36 and 1:12.92.
A True Pussycat, another of Bush’s runners, made a brief bid on the far turn, but as they straightened for home, Indian Vale put matters to rest by drawing off to win in 1:50.51. Indian Vale earned $64,080 and paid $3, $2.40 and $2.10. A True Pussycat returned $4.20 and $2.80. Daytime Promise paid $3.40 to show.
“Coming back off a layoff, when you have high regards for a filly like this, you would like her to come back and show what she’s done in the past,” said Seth Benzel, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. “According to Mike, he didn’t think she was getting out, but she switched to her left lead. She’s done that in the past, it’s not something that is new for her."
Indian Vale won for the sixth time in eight races and increased her earnings to $433,254.
"Mike’s take on the race was that he had more in the tank," Benzel said. "That’s good to hear. Any time they come in off a layoff, you don’t want to squeeze them all the way. It will be interesting to see what Todd will do with her. I think she might be better around two turns. Todd will have to figure out what kind of campaign he wants to put her on.”
Luzzi felt Indian Vale’s return was a success and there is reason to look to a brighter future.
“The only concern was this being her first race back,” Luzzi said. “I didn’t pinch her too hard. I would say she is probably 75-80 percent fit, but that is just my guess. This was my first time on her.”
A True Pussycat was better than eight lengths ahead of third-place finisher Daytime Promise. Dina and Lexi Star trailed.
Racing returns to the Big A’s main track on April 4.